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Greatest Action Films

Updated on September 19, 2014

Adrenaline pumping through your veins, your heart racing, you hang on the edge of your seat...waiting for the next shoe to drop. That is the excitement of a great action thriller. If you are mentally and physically drained after the movie, then an action film has done its job -- wearing you out.

The best action movies come in a lot of shapes and sizes including adventure films, spy thrillers, sci fi action thrillers, suspense thrillers, heist films, etc. I particularly like the nonstop action thrillers where you can hardly catch your breath in between action sequences, including such films as Speed, Die Hard and Eagle Eye.

The best action movies included on this ranking span 39 years from The French Connection in 1971 to Inception in 2010. It includes a wide range of actors and directors. You will find many of the top box-office actors of the past 30 years including Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Gene Hackman, Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio.

This list of top ten action movies is based on the blended average of all member rankings at Rankography top ten movies and it is a mix of many of these different action genres. If you like this listing of action movies, you might also check out our list of the best comic book movies.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2012 Rankography

10. Speed (1994)

The Ultimate Non-Stop Action Movie Thriller

This high speed, adrenaline packed action movie is truly one of a kind. After, I watched this action film with my kids, they begged me to find other movies like Speed. We have tried but few other action movies compare to the non-stop action of Speed. Even Die Hard and T2 have quiet periods, but Speed keeps your adrenaline flowing throughout the movie from the opening elevator scene to the ending credits. Eagle Eye, starring Shia LeBeouf, may be the closest film to offer non-stop action thrills.

Whatever your opinion of Keanu Reeves as an actor, there is no denying that this is an outstanding fast-paced action movie and throughout the tense scenes there is great chemistry between Reeves and Sandra Bullock. As usual, Dennis Hopper gives a stunning performance as the villain, a deranged retired cop, in this action thriller.

Probably not one of the best films of all time, Speed is definitely one of the best action movies thrill rides ever.

If you enjoyed Speed... - You might also like Eagle Eye

Eagle Eye
Eagle Eye
race-against-time thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan star as strangers ripped from their ordinary lives when they are activated as part or a high-tech assassination plot.

9. Fight Club (1999)

An Action Film with Layers and Layers of Depth

The first rule of Fight Club is don't talk about Fight Club. But, we are going to talk about it because this is one of the best action films ever in the suspense genre. It is a complicated plot initiated by The Narrator's (Edward Norton) growing disillusionment with the automobile industry and their careless disregard for the public and victims of car accidents resulting from defective products.

David Fincher delivers a film that is incredibly complex with many layers of subtext that grows in depth with each viewing. The cast is superb with Brad Pitt, Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. While I am sure many may have turned away from this action movie because of the title, but this is not a film filled with needless violence. Yes there is violence, but it fulfills the plot line and is woven into the fabric of this top action film.

Fight Club is an excellent movie and a must see film in the suspense action movie genre.

If you loved Fight Club... - You might also enjoy Snatch

Snatch (Widescreen Edition)
Snatch (Widescreen Edition)
Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina. A dangerous debt and a priceless diamond bring together con men, hit men, gypsys and mobsters from around the world in this comic crime thriller by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie.

8. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Grand Finale in the Bourne Trilogy Really Delivers

The Bourne series is one of the most read spy novel series of all time so it is no wonder that the Bourne films were such blockbuster hits. The Bourne Ultimatum is the finale in the trilogy in which Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) finally has the opportunity to unravel the mystery behind his CIA past and track down the bosses that have put out the hit order on his life.

Each of the Bourne movies are filled with high energy thrills while Bourne is chased across the world by his old employer. However, The Bourne Ultimatum is the best of the three films both because it has a more complex and interesting plot and also because it provides us with many answers to the mysteries of the series.

If you enjoy fast-paced action and intrigue in a spy setting, then the Bourne series is about as good as they come.

7. The Fugitive (1993)

On the Run to Prove his Innocence

Accused of murdering his wife, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is on the run and trying to find evidence to prove that he is innocent. This is a fascinating action thriller movie in that we are "aligned" with the supposed murderer and the US Marshall (Tommy Lee Jones) chasing him actually feels like the villain.

This is one of the great action movies, but it is also a murder mystery that we unravel with Dr. Kimble throughout the film. The cast is excellent and also includes Julianne Moore and Sela Ward. If you like sophisticated action films, The Fugitive is one of the best you will find.

If you liked The Fugitive... - You might also enjoy Enemy of the State

Enemy Of The State
Enemy Of The State
Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith) is a lawyer with a wife and family whose happily normal life is turned upside down after a chance meeting with a college buddy (Jason Lee) at a lingerie shop. Unbeknownst to the lawyer, he's just been burdened with a videotape of a congressman's assassination.

6. The Dark Knight (2008)

A Nemesis as Formidable as Batman

Considered by many to be the best comic book movie ever, The Dark Knight is also one of the greatest action films of all time. Most of the outstanding cast from Batman Begins has returned in this great action movie including Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Maggy Gyllenhaal.

However, the key added ingredient that really puts this film over the top is Heath Ledger as the Joker. In his final performance prior to his untimely death, Ledger provides a stunning performance that won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the tortured and demented Joker. It was the penultimate performance to a brilliant career tragically cut short by an accidental overdose.

The Dark Knight is definitely one of the greatest action movies ever and solidified Christopher Nolan's place as one of the best young Directors in Hollywood.

5. Inception (2010)

A Fast Paced Action Movie that Entertains on Many Levels

Christopher Nolan's second action film on the list is his 2010 blockbuster Inception. This suspense thriller is both an action movie and a multilevel mystery film. Once again, Nolan assembled an outstanding cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caine, Tom Berenger, Ken Watanabe and Ellen Page. Nolan also wrote the screenplay for this highly complex action thriller.

In an undefined time period, technology has been developed to invade another person's dreams. Naturally, a black market has developed for thieves that can steal corporate secrets through others dreams and Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is the master of this dream deception. In Inception, Cobb and his band of thieves are attempting a very dangerous "mind heist" that involves multiple dream levels. They are in a race against time as well as some dangerous "dream protectors". It is a highly entertaining action movie with many layers of complex that will keep you guessing throughout the film. Definitely, one of the best action films ever.

4. T2 Terminator 2 (1991)

Cutting Edge CGI and a Loveable Cyborg Hero Make this Film

T2, the blockbuster sequel to The Terminator, was revolutionary because of its groundbreaking use of computer generated imagery ("CGI") to create an absolutely chilling villain cyborg, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). His ability to repair himself against all conventional weapons created a terrifying helplessness while the heroes tried to evade this cold-blooded killer. His free flowing liquid metal remains incredibly cool and futuristic to this day.

In T2, Arnold Schwarzenegger's cyborg character returns from the future , but this time he has been sent by future John as an ally and protector for young John Connor (Edward Furlong) and his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton). The three are in a race to find the creator of Skynet, the future network that will become self aware to allow machines to take the world from humans. However, they also must evade the the T-1000 which has been sent by Skynet to kill young John Connor so that he cannot save the human race.

There are few sci fi action thrillers that can even compare to T2. If you like your action mixed with sci fi technology, then this is one of the greatest action films that you will ever find.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The Grandaddy of all Action Adventure Films

In 1981, Harrison Ford made Archeology sexy in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which most feel is the greatest action movie of all time. This is an archeological quest film for the ultimate archeological find, the biblical Ark of the Covenant. We travel the globe with Indiana Jones (Ford) looking for clues to the whereabouts of the Ark. It is a wonderful adventure and time will fly by while you are enthralled in this film.

This is one of Steven Spielberg's most beloved films. What truly sets this film apart is its timeless quality. Because it is set in archeological settings with lots of hand to hand combat with little technology, it works as well today as it did back in 1981. Indy is a man's man hero whose likability is as strong among men as it is among women. This film is the granddaddy of Action Adventure Films and a really great action movie.

If you loved Raiders of the Lost Ark, you should also check out Romancing the Stone

2. The Matrix (1999)

Revolutionary Technology Movie that Blew our Minds

In 1999, The Wachowski Brothers blew our mind with this high energy hacker thriller. I distinctly remember walking out of the theater a bit dazed thinking "wow, what just happened". Their concept for a struggle between man and machines is so groundbreaking that it really took our minds a while to fully comprehend the movie. I will not discuss the plot here for anyone that has not seen the movie before, but what I can say is that the matrix is a concept that involves the digits, 1 and 0 that lie at the heart of all computing.

It was a shame that neither of the two sequels could live up to The Matrix. However, this first film was so good that it really was an impossible task. Keanu Reeves is the star of this film as Neo and he is one of only two leading men (with Harrison Ford) that appear twice on this top action movies list. While the entire cast is good, Laurence Fishburne is fantastic as the cult leader, Morpheus.

1. Die Hard (1988)

John McLane's Debut as an Action Movie Hero

John McLane (Bruce Willis) is one of the most endearing action movie heroes of all time. He is an "everyman" hero with incredible resilience and a cutting wit even in the toughest situations. It is no wonder that there have been 3 sequels and a 4th on the way in 2012. We are first introduced to McLane in this great action movie. John is a vacationing New York City cop, who is visiting his wife and kids in Los Angeles, when he gets caught up in a kidnapping at the Nakatomi Plaza building.

Long before Alan Rickman played Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series, he was Hans Gruber, the heartless mastermind of the kidnapping plot in Die Hard. Rickman is excellent as the cold-blooded Gruber which paved the way for an outstanding career of villain roles for Rickman. This is one of the great action movies and a must see for any action junkie.

Vote for your favorite of the Top Ten Action Movies

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